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strongman carries

The Farmers Carry Cure

farmers carry

Guest Post by Eric Bach’s Aussie Mate, Shane McLean


Your shoulders will ache, your grip will fail, and the mental battle will be tough. But you should make the farmers carry part of your program even though:

(1)  It’s a lot harder than it looks
(2) You may end up swearing and cursing and acting like the dreaded gym grunter guy.

Whether you’re trying to get stronger, build muscle, lose fat, or rehab certain injuries, the farmer’s carry is a must.

Your grip gives out during the deadlift? Do the farmers carry.

You have puny forearms? Do the farmers carry.

Have a couple of banged up shoulders? Do the farmers carry.

The farmers carry will:

  • Improve Posture. Trying to carry heavy weights with rounded shoulders is almost impossible. Strengthening the upper back should always be a priority.  
  • Improve Breathing Pattern. It’s pretty hard to be a chest breather when you’re carrying heavy weights around.
  • Improve Shoulder Stability. Your rotator cuffs will work like crazy to keep your arms in their sockets.
  • Improve Core and Hip Stabilizers. Every step of the farmer’s walk is a single leg stance. Enough said.

Carries have been around since the dawn of time, but have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity thanks to Strength Yoda Dan John. He explains the importance of loaded carries about two minutes into this clip and says they can change your life in three weeks. And when the Yoda speaks, we should all listen.

So why do so many gym-goers avoid carries? My guess is it’s because they think:

  • They’re hard
  • There’s no pump
  • What muscle does it work again?
  • Where’s the mirror?

Beginning with the basic version, let’s look at how to make the farmer’s carry and its variations part of  your routine.


If you’re just starting out or it’s been awhile since you’ve carried heavy, begin with this variation.

The cue that works here is “shoulders down and chest up.”

But if you want to think sexy, just use: “walk like a supermodel.” The one that usually makes sure you admire ALL her assets.

You can also pair the basic dumbbell farmer’s carry with any press variation. You won’t tax your grip before getting to the carry.

For example:

1A. Overhead/Bench Press/ Push Up variation

1B. Farmer’s Carry 40 yards
Or pair a Farmer’s Carry  with a Pallof Press to give your core a double whammy.

1A. Tall kneeling overhead Pallof Press:  8 reps at 3-2-1-3 tempo

1B. Dumbbell Farmer’s Carry 40 yards.

The standard dumbbell carry can and will give you all you need to improve in and out the gym. Think of it as vanilla ice cream of carries. However, if you like a little more flavor, keep on reading.


  • 10 Minute Carry

Most people who train do so to look better naked. Adding this 10 minute carry at the end of your training will fry you and your body fat.


Instructions – Depending on your strength level, start with a single 20, 25 or 30 pound kettlebell. Hold the bell bottoms up, straight up and to the side of the head, with your biceps by or behind your ear. Start walking. Remember to stand tall. After you lose your grip, stop and reset. When you lose your grip for the second time, bring the bell into the rack position and keep on walking.

Once you lose neutral wrist position or your upper back is screaming at you, hold the bell suitcase style by your side and keep walking.Whichever variations you use, work one side for five minutes, Then switch to the other side for five minutes.

  • Carry and Swing

If you’re proficient with the RKC kettlebell swing, then give this combo at the end of your training.


1A.Two-handed Kettlebell Swings – 10 reps

1B. Suitcase Carry 40 yards.

Alternate hands on the suitcase carry.  Do one round (one carry is equal to one round) every minute on the minute.  If one round takes you 40 seconds, rest 20 seconds before you start your next round.   Do six to ten rounds or until your grip gives out.


A stronger grip has a huge carryover to most of your major lifts and at times can be your limiting factor. The longer you can hang on to the bar while you’re lifting, the better chance you have of building some muscle. Have you ever seen a skinny strongman/powerlifter?  I didn’t think so.


  • Try This For Bigger Arms

Save this circuit for the end of your training, when you’re looking for some bicep work. Do this tri-set two to three times per week for guns of steel.

1a. Zottman curl 12-15 reps

1b. Barbell wrist curls 15 reps

1c. Dumbbell farmer’s carry 40 yards (at least 25% of your bodyweight in each hand)

Repeat this circuit three times with minimal rest in between exercises.

  • 30 Second Finisher

Nothing fancy about this one. Begin with half your bodyweight. Use any two handed carry variation (dumbbell, kettlebell or a trap bar), walk for 40 steps and place the weight down. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat. Stop when you can no longer walk for 40 steps without letting go. Record the number of rounds and try to beat it next time.


In my experience, the overhead barbell carry is the cherry on top of the cake in the world of carries. Every single step is a challenge for the whole body.  One false step you, the barbell and the floor become one.

This is an advanced exercise that involves some risk. It’s not for everyone.   But sometimes a little fear in your training can be a motivating experience!

Program this taxing movement near the beginning of your training, just after your big strength movement for the day.   Pairing the overhead walk in a superset with an upper body movement works best.  For example:

1A. Bent over barbell row, chin up or bench press variations.

1B. Overhead barbell carry- 20 steps forward, then 20 steps back.

Wrapping up the Farmers Carry

No matter what your training goal, there is a carry to fit your need. Now is the time to embrace the carry so you can crush your personal bests in and out of the gym. Throw in a smile and you’ve got it made.

About the Author

Shane “The Balance Guy” McLean, is an A.C.E Certified Personal Trainer working deep in the heart of Dallas, Texas.

No, Shane doesn’t wear a cowboy hat or boots.  After being told that his posture blows by Eric Cressey, he has made it his mission to rid the world of desk jockeys and have fun while doing so.

After all exercise is fun and never a “work” out.

You can follow Shane on Twitter HERE, and Facebook HERE.

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